Buster Posey is 28 years old and is already considered by some to be one the greatest catchers in baseball history. Heading into his age-29 season, are we witnessing one of the greatest careers ever? There are many factors when deciding whether or not someone is an all-time great. First and foremost is a comparison to others that play his position.
If you simply look at Wins Above Replacement, Posey is the 37th greatest catcher to ever play. Not exactly an all-time great. However, when you compare the number of games played versus the 36 catchers above him, it looks more impressive. Posey has played in 753 major-league games. By comparison, every other player above him has played at least 1,062 games and some have played over 2,000 like Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra.
Bench was a 14-time All-Star, a two-time World Series champion, a two-time National League MVP, as well as a Rookie of the Year, and ten-time Gold Glove winner.
Berra was an 18-time All-Star, a 13-time World Series champion and a three-time American League MVP.
When talking about all-time greats, Bench and Berra are head and shoulders above all other catchers. For Posey to come close to either, he would need to maintain his current level of success for another decade.
If you look at catchers who had a season of 4.0 WAR or above, Posey is 20th all-time. He has had four straight seasons with a WAR of 4.0 or more. If he were to have three more seasons at that level, he would be tied with Berra for sixth on the same list. This not only shows how rare a 4-WAR season is for a catcher, but also how close Posey is to being in the conversation with the all-time greats.
Posey has a NL Rookie of the Year award, an NL Most Valuable Player award, a batting title, as well as being a three-time All-Star among other accolades. He has also won three World Series titles. When you start looking at other catchers with similar resumes, the number shrinks even more.
Roy Campanella was an eight-time All-Star, a World Series champion, as well as a three-time NL MVP. His career was cut short by a severe car accident that would leave him partially paralyzed.
Gary Carter was an 11-time All-Star, a World Series champion, as well as a three-time NL Gold Glove winner.
Mickey Cochrane was a two-time All-Star, a three-time World Series champion, as well as a two-time AL MVP. He would have gone to more Midsummer Classics, but the game was not created until the end of his career.
Carlton Fisk was an 11-time All-Star, an AL Rookie of the Year and won one Gold Glove. His legacy was cemented by his legendary World Series home run in the 1975 World Series.
Joe Mauer is currently a six-time All-Star, an AL MVP, a three-time batting champ, as well as a three-time Gold Glove winner. Injuries have already forced his move to first base, something Posey may have to consider at some point down the road.
Yadier Molina is currently a seven-time All-Star, a two-time World Series champion, as well as an eight-time Gold Glove winner. His contributions offensively do not measure up to Posey.
Thurman Munson was a seven-time All-Star, a two-time World Series champ, as well as an AL MVP and a Rookie of the Year. He was also a three-time Gold Glove winner. Munson died tragically in an airplane crash at the age of 32.
Mike Piazza was a 12-time All-Star and a NL Rookie of the Year. He is the all-time leader in home runs at the catcher position, with 396. Piazza will enter the Hall of Fame this summer.
Jorge Posada was a five-time All-Star and a four-time World Series champion.
Ivan Rodriguez was a 14-time All-Star, a World Series champion, an AL MVP as well as a 13-time Gold Glove winner. He may eventually get the call to Cooperstown.
You could argue that Posey is already among the ten greatest catchers of all-time. You could also argue that other catchers like Gene Tenace, Ted Simmons, Joe Torre and others are still better than Posey on a career totals basis. Eventually, if Posey’s career continues on the same trajectory, he could surpass nearly every name above him and cement his place as a top-five catcher in the history of baseball. Wherever you place Posey on an all-time list, it is clear that he is knocking on the door to be a part of the conversation and we are currently witnessing one of the greatest careers of all-time.